Write the damn book, Pigboy

Storytime, baby writers: Once, on a “date,” I told a man I wanted to be a writer.  I hadn’t written a word in years. I mentioned it offhand, trying on the identity. At the time that felt like enough.

This man, who lived in a tool shed, was as much a writer as I was. Upon realizing we were kindred spirits, he immediately launched into a full account of his unwritten epic fantasy, Pigboy. It was about a pigboy named Pigboy, who was like a shepherd, but for pigs. There was a wandering princess. She said, “You can’t lead my army. You’re just a pigboy.” They made love. Did he lead that army? You bet your ass Pigboy did.

He took an hour and a half to tell me this story. At the end he asked, “What do you think?” I said what I’d probably say now: it was derivative, but so’s everything. It’d come down to execution on the page. I then–delicately!–asked him if he noticed I was miserably bored the entire time he was talking. He had!

In my defense, he was really hot.

If you think it’s awfully cruel I’m telling you this story before he ever got a chance, remember: 1) I am way better at telling it than he was, 2) he was hot, but not 90-minutes-wall-to-wall-Pigboy-recap hot 3) he hadn’t written a word of it. A decade later, he still hasn’t. You can’t copyright half-assed, unexecuted ideas. I wrote it, here, now. It’s mine.

Learn from my pettiness: there is only one thing that makes you a writer, and that’s writing. Don’t tell me about the book. Write the book, write the pitch, sell the book. The book will have ideas and themes. The only time anyone will ask you about themes in your own book will be on NPR after it’s published. If you have to talk about your book–and you never, ever have to before it’s 100% done (so don’t)–forefront plot. Be concise.

The book is all there is. Write the book.

Historical Marxism’s complicated relationship with writing

Communism is ultimately a Utopian project rooted in the idea that shit as it’s going now ain’t acceptable, and we ought to fix it, and as part of the conversation on what we ought to fix and how, some pretty fundamental things end up questioned. Like, should our work weeks be the same? Why not a planned economy? Why not get rid of pests? We are hoping for a renegotiation, for a reassessment in who is the recipient of violence, who may speak, how we live, and that means living in ways nobody has tried before. There will be failures.

One of the things on the table: what the fuck should art be, anyway? There was a recent Twitter… thing where I believe someone identifying as Marxist-Leninist declared all genre fiction fascist, sort of defaulted to “because it is” when pressed, and couldn’t articulate much more than that. The devil deserves a better advocate, even if he must lose in the end.

Let’s take a crack at it.

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The Writers’ Inner Critic

Writers are brutal self-critics. I’m part of a small chat of mostly writers, a Breakfast Club-esque group of six of us at varying stages of our careers and working in varying genres. Between all of us, we write fiction, non-fiction, academic articles, academic books, leftist political commentary, fanfic, short stories (spec and lit fic), memoir, sports writing, ad copy writing, YA spec fic, and adult literary fiction. Pretty broad. Every one of us has had times where we go in on our own writing, and the group has had to talk us down.

These self-directed Two Minutes Hates make up the bulk of our writing talk despite them not being frequent. They’re hard on all of us. I personally make a point not to share every rejection (and I get rejected frequently because all writers do). It’s not so much that it’s repetitive or unsympathetic or what have you. There’s an intense dysphoria I feel when I spend too much time talking about anyone’s rejections and successes. Everyone else feels it, too.

To explain (maybe over-explain) this dysphoria, I want to go back to this concept of double consciousness I mentioned in this postContinue reading

Writing is Bullshit: Protagonists

Coming up with story concepts isn’t difficult for me. It’s not hard to sit down and rattle off 15 concepts really quick, just a sentence. A concept will usually suggest a genre to me. Genres have conventions and obligatory scenes, so the bones of the story are there in less than ten seconds, easily.

Here’s where it gets hard: I’ve read so many stories I know exactly how that story is supposed to go. So does everyone else. So why write it?

For me, the answer is anger. Something about how I’m supposed to write that story not only doesn’t match my lived experience, it is such unbelievable bullshit that I’m willing to hammer out a 90,000-word subtweet.

Right now, I’m mad at the protagonist. Protagonists are bullshit.

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